Ever wonder why all the big budget Motion Picture’s looks so good with epic color correction, color grading and quality? The large budget movie makers use expensive cinema camera’s like Arri Alexa, Red or Black Magic. These camera shoots in RAW instead of h.264 which is the typical recording format in almost every Canon or Nikon DSLR available.
The RAW footage contains a way lot more amount of data than h.264 and you need a bigger storage if you wish to record RAW. A RAW footage can be edited much better in post production than h.264. You get a much better color correction, white balance, vast dynamic range. In simple words, RAW is a much better format if you wish to make a better film.
Unfortunately, DSLR camera’s does not shoot in RAW. Though you can take still images in RAW format. So, how can you achieve a video which is close to RAW, has good quality and can be edited much better in the post with a DSLR camera.
If you notice a video shot with a typical DSLR camera, you will notice a high level of contrast as well as saturation. Contrast in a picture is just like sugar in tea. You can add sugar in a tea, but you cannot remove it from that tea. Similarly, the contrast cannot be eliminated from your footage if you shoot at high contrast settings. But, if you shoot at low contrast, then later during post production, you can increase it according your need.
Before filming with a DSLR camera, go to your picture controls settings and decrease the contrast all the way down to 0. This will help you get a much better footage.
Saturation depends on the theme of your film, make sure you exactly know what you are going to film before changing the saturation settings of your camera. For example, a horror or sad film has less colors in it as it throws us a sign of dullness and sadness and thus you have to decrease the saturation before filming. On the other hand, if you are filming something happy, romantic, nature, and so you need to increase the saturation and it will add more colors to your footage.
Another thing to keep in mind before filming is the exposure. Always keep the exposure down a bit, you can increase it during the post. Also, eliminate any unwanted flares and lights.
Talking about the sharpness of your footage, It depends on the source of your playback device. If you are creating a video for YouTube purpose, then increase the sharpness a bit or if you want to play your video on a TV or projector, decrease the sharpness to 0 as your TV already has sharpness enabled into it.
Magic Lantern Hack and RAW Video on Canon DSLR
The software of a Canon DSLR can be override with Magic Lantern. You can say it is a kind of Hack that enables your Canon DSLR camera to shoot pure RAW footage. Since RAW takes lots of storage space, you require a high speed storage card like a Class 10 with high amount of memory space.
With Magic Lantern you can control your Audio, Exposure, Focus, Recording Bit-Rate, FPS override and much more. Earlier, Magic Lantern was only available for Canon 5D, but today it is usable for almost all Canon DSLR’s
Setting up this hack will void your warranty and sometimes it can also damage your camera, so install it at your own risk.
Using the Correct White Balance
White Balance is the major thing you have to hold in mind while shooting and the correct white balance will help in generating true colors which are essential for a High Quality video. Since, the Magic Lantern hack allows you to manipulate the White Balance in a much better way, you can nevertheless do so which your stock camera firmware.
A simple trick to set the correct white balance is using a white sheet of paper or a cloth.
Take a white piece of paper or a cloth and keep it in front of your camera. Turn on your camera and focus on that white paper or cloth. Right away, shift your White balance till the paper or the cloth appears exactly white in your camera. This will determine the correct white balance according to the environment and location you are shooting in.
You have to change the white balance according to your shooting location. If you move from outdoors to indoors or vice-versa, re-adjust your White balance before shooting again.
So, the key features to shoot a good quality video with a DSLR are keeping the contrast as low as possible, adjusting the Saturation and Sharpness accordingly, adjusting White balance using the Paper or cloth method and using Magic Lantern hack on Canon DSLR’s if you can afford bricking one but this happens in very rare cases. I guess it depends on how lucky you are.